Transformers Universe: Optimus Primal by Hasbro

If you follow me on Twitter, then you know I was Tote Diving a bit last week, looking for stuff that I didn’t need to free up some space. It was largely unsuccessful, because most of the stuff went back into the tote, but I did find a few items that are going to be leaving my collection. One of them is Optimus Primal from the Transformers Universe line, and since I never reviewed him here, I thought I’d remedy that before he goes off to another home. Besides, there hasn’t been a lot of Transformers content around here lately, so I’ll take every chance I can get. So, let’s dial the Wayback Machine to 2003…

And here’s a really old picture of him in his box. Universe was a strange line, populated entirely by repaints of existing molds, sometimes introduced as new characters. The fiction for the line suggested that these were characters being pulled together from all ends of a Transformers Multiverse. In some cases it brought back toys that had been off the shelf for a while, like Primal here or the Machine Wars version of Starscream as King Atlas. It was a cool idea, and if Hasbro had stuck with using the older toys, it could have been something special. Unfortunately, it tended to favor repaints of a lot of recent releases, and as a result, I don’t think this line really reached its potential. Let’s start with Primal’s gorilla mode!

When it comes to Beast Wars, I was a big fan of the show but only dabbled in the toys. This is actually the first time I’ve owned this particular mold and I was pretty surprised by how much I liked the gorilla mode. Sure, it’s got lots of seams and exposed hinges, and stuff like that, but it’s still a decent looking and most of all fun toy. The sculpted fur is pretty well done and the face has a lot of personality, making Primal look like he’s about to put a Predacon’s head through the nearest wall.

This is a complete recolor of the original toy, so even the plastic used for his gorilla body is different. Here it’s more of a chocolate brown, where as I believe the original was darker brown. You also get some green in the upper arms and upper legs. The gray and white parts from the original toy have been replaced, and I think all in all this deco looks quite good. There are some areas of exposed yellow plastic, but they’re not very prominent, at least not in the gorilla mode.

There’s a lot more paint on the head and face this time around. What was orginally just a gray face, blue eyes, and white teeth has been jazzed up with some white and silver paint that starts around the eyes and runs up the top of his head and down the back. The red around the eyes is unevenly applied, I presume intentionally. He’s got yellow eyes, a tan mouth and nose, and white teeth. I like the paintwork here a lot, and I’d argue that it looks a lot cooler than the original, but given my druthers, I would have been just as happy if they offered this level of paint detail but kept the original deco.

Because the beast mode uses the robot arms as the beast arms and robot legs as the beast legs, you get the same level of articulation. Although in beast mode, Primal is mainly intended to be hunched over in a normal gorilla fashion. He does have a gimmick which allows him to pound his chest by working the rather enormous lever on his back. This action causes the arms to move in an alternating fashion. Fun, but probably not worth having to look at the ugly lever. Another cool gimmick is the ability to deploy a pair of shoulder mounted missile launchers with the press of a button located just above his ass. What can I say? There’s just something about a gorilla with hidden missile launchers that tickles me. Let’s move on to his robot mode…

Because the beast mode and robot mode share the same limbs, transforming this guy is pretty simple and from memory, it’s pretty accurate to the transforming animation on the show. I really dig the robot mode here, which is pretty well proportioned and just looks like a powerful bot. The deco remains largely the same, although you do get some more yellow in the legs. I like the hydraulic arms that come out of the legs and attach to the feet, and the way the gorilla mode’s upper arms fold out into shoulder armor is pretty rad as well. The blending of robot with organic curves and sculpted fur certainly makes for a rather distinctive look that only Beast Wars could pull off. About the only thing here I’m not overly fond of is the rather ugly chest piece. It’s cool how the gorilla head flips inward, but they really needed a plate or something to cover that shit up.

The head sculpt is not at all show accurate, but I do like it. It’s basically just a big-eyed Optimus Prime with a red “helmet” instead of a blue one. He has a rather exaggerated crest in the middle and his usual pair of ear headphones with antenna sticking up. The paint they used for the blue eyes looks great and manages to capture an illuminated look in the right light. The silver used for the mouth-plate is also quite striking. Of course, if you prefer your heroic Maximal leader to look like a goddamn monster… just flip the head around…

…and you get the Mutant Face. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a very cool looking sculpt, but this gimmick went nowhere in the toyline and I’m kind of surprised Hasbro left it on for this toy. Maybe it was just more bother to take it off. Funny, but as ugly as it is, it almost has a Bayformer quality about it. Let’s move on and check out some of Primal’s armaments.

You can still activate the shoulder launchers in robot mode and this is still my favorite thing about this figure. Those babies must really come in handy in a fight. Want more missiles?

You got it! Primal’s left hand splits open to reveal two more missile-spitters. The only downside here is that you have to load them up after you deploy them, so if you want Primal to be a fast draw with these weapons, you’ll have to rely on your imagination. Still, plenty cool though! And hey, missiles are all well and good, but sometimes you want a weapon with a little personality. Something that really personifies a heroic Maximal Leader…

…like a goddamn skull mace hidden in your right arm. Holy Primus, what were these people thinking? This has got to be one of the most bizarre weapons I’ve seen on a Transformer. It’s certainly rather uncharacteristic for the Primal I know. How about some swords?

Primal also comes with these curved swords, which I guess are a little more nobler than bashing someone’s head in with a skull at the end of a rope. Here’s where I point out that the missiles, swords, and the handle for the flail are all cast in a rather obnoxious yellow plastic. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but Hasbro used a lot of crazy colors in this line, making some of these repaints a little over the top.

Optimus Primal is an excellent toy and this Universe repaint is pretty solid, but he’s one of those figures that just doesn’t fit in my collection any more. Over the years, I’ve parted ways with all my favorite Beast Wars figures, like Inferno and Megatron. Even the Generations versions of the Beast Wars characters didn’t hang out in my collection that long. And so too, it’s time for Primal to move on to a new home. It’s the circle of collecting life and his sacrifice will make room for more Transformers. Assuming I actually find any of the newer Power of the Primes figures around here, because they sure are going for some crazy prices on Amazon right now.

Transformers Cybertron: “Jungle Planet” Optimus Prime and Megatron by Hasbro

Yes, folks, this February Transformers Thursdays are all Unicron Trilogy all the time and to be honest, I have yet to venture outside the Cybertron line. Bear with me, there will be new Transformers coming in March, but for now, let’s travel back to 2006… yet again. It’s the 10th Anniversary of Beast Wars and Hasbro had a bizarre little homage for us in the form of two Cybertron Deluxes of Optimus Prime and Megatron in Jungle Planet versions that looked suspiciously like Optimus Primal and Megatron from the great Maximal and Predacon War.

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And that’s because these molds were actually part of the Beast Wars 10th Anniversary revival and released in their proper Beast Wars colors in commemorative style window boxes. Why, Hasbro felt the need to repaint them and release them as part of the Cybertron series in the same damn year was always a puzzle to me. But I bought them anyway, mainly because I never found the Beast Wars versions at the TRU’s near me.  Let’s start with Megatron and his alt mode…

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Megsy is a totally bitchin’ techno T-Rex and I absolutely love this mold! It’s loaded with sculpted panel lines and crazy contours that make it look just a little bit H.R. Giger inspired. There’s also surprisingly little robot kibble to be seen, even if you flip him over and check out his undercarriage.

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The deco consists of two green tones with some purple bits showing here and there and some black, brown, gold, and silver paint. Holy shit, Hasbro was not stingy on the paint hits back then! I’ll be honest, I would have preferred the more purple Beast Wars version over this Jungle Planet theme with all the green, but he’s still plenty cool.

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Articulation here also makes for a very fun toy in beast mode. There are ball joints in the “hips” and “shoulders” and hinges in the “knees” and “ankles.” You also get a hinged jaw with a sculpted tongue in there. It’s hard to believe they could get this beast mode so right and so many of the Grimlocks that would follow so wrong. It’s also worth noting that while most Cybertron figures had CyberKey gimmicks in both robot and alt modes, this pair only have them in their robot modes. And speaking of robot modes… Megsy’s is gorgeous!

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Ooooh, yeah! A big part of transforming Megsy here requires pulling off his tail. Maybe some would consider that a cheat, but if it’s any consolation, the tail becomes a weapon he can hold, and he is technically holding it while in beast mode. So, let’s let him slide on that. Besides, without the tail in his hand, his left arm looks really gimpy. Either way, this I’m totally down for this robot mode. The way the torso flips into place is cool as is the engineering on the left shoulder, which folds down and neatly into place. And that head sculpt… Yessssss!

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Of course, he has the same dino-head right hand that Beast Wars Megsy had and as mentioned, the tail becomes a bludgeon he can hold in his left hand and inserting the CyberKey converts it into a missile launcher. This figure is both a great little homage to Beast Wars Megatron and a pretty fine original piece on its own. Unfortunately, this feature is going to start skidding hopelessly out of control as we see how Optimus made out…

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Sweet Primus, what happened here? The fact that Optimus’ beast mode sucks so much quite frankly surprises me. I would have guessed the engineering from monkey to robot would have been easier to work with. I don’t hate this, but I don’t love it either… in fact, I don’t even think I like it. Prime’s beast mode seems to cling more to organics with sculpted fur, but there’s still some techno parts showing and the face looks particularly robotic. It’s an unsettling mix that kind of creeps me out.

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That face! Oh no. No no no no no no… no! And while the articulation is overall good with ball joints all around, Prime’s monkey mode feels like it’s intended to just stand there on his feet and knuckles. Let’s see if his robot mode can sell me on this figure…

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Better! Although, this is one of the most frustrating transformations I’ve dealt with on a Deluxe in a long while. Why is that? The Beast Wars toy wasn’t anywhere near this annoying. Halfway through I just had a pile of limbs, all interconnected on reciprocal hinges and a mess that looks like a gorilla had an accident in a teleporter. Fortunately, the end result is actually pretty good.

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This is a lovely little re-imagined Deluxe version of Optimus Primal and finally a fun figure to play with. The sculpted chest with the silver and red paint looks great and the same articulation that felt rather wasted on the gorilla mode makes for a great robot mode. The head sculpt is a home-run too. Oh yeah, Prime comes with his hover board for his gorilla mode to ride on and… OH F’CK, I HAVE TO CHANGE HIM BACK??? God dammit… be right back…

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There. You happy? There’s a god damn robot monkey riding a hoverboard… sideways… and it looks like crap. The board has pegs for Prime’s gorilla feet, but he just looks awkward trying to ride it. There’s also a CyberKey gimmick that deploys the side of the board, kind of like an outrigger and reveals the trigger for the hidden missile launcher in the nose.

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Obviously I’m mixed on this pair. My love for Megatron needs no qualifications. He’s great in both modes and lots of fun to play with. Hasbro did a splendid job on him. Optimus, on the other hand, has a pretty piss poor beast mode and a needlessly complex transformation, but he has a robot mode that carries the day. It was a neat little experiment to work Beast Wars homages into the Cybertron line for the 10th Anniversary and thanks to the Jungle Planet in the fiction, this one sort of makes sense in the context of the series. It’s likely when the Unicron Trilogy purges of my collection are complete, these figures may survive it.

Transformers Generations: Waspinator (IDW Comic Pack) by Hasbro

It’s Transformers Thursday again and I’m still chipping away at my last wave of IDW Comic Packs. There were two figures in this wave that I was really excited to get: The first was Skids and the second was good old Waspinator here. I’m still not a steady reader of IDW’s Robots in Disguise comic, but at some point I will get to reading my stack of RiD TPBs. I promise! I haven’t been terribly impressed with the half dozen or so issues that I have read, but then it’s kind of been eclipsed by the brilliance of More Than Meets The Eye. One thing I will applaud about the comic is IDW’s willingness to bring characters from other continuities into the fold. Sure, we got a straight up Beast Wars version of Rhinox in Generations, but he was a Voyager and as far as Deluxes go, right now it seems that Hasbro is predicating the releases in this size assortment as part of the comic packs, at least where the Generations toys are concerned.

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And there’s nothing wrong with that because as I’m so fond of pointing out, I think any kind of action figure comic pack is just amazing. Ok, so yeah it’s a little odd to see Waspinator on a G1-inspired cardback, but this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Beast Wars figures in the Classics-Universe-Generations lines. Anyway, I’ve gushed on and on about my infatuation with the presentation of the Generations Comic Pack long enough in the past and so let’s just move on to the figure. I’m going to buck the trend here and I’m actually going to start with Waspinator’s robot mode.

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So, perfection isn’t a word I throw around a lot when talking about action figures, and I’m going to come just short of doing it here today. But damn, if this Waspinator figure doesn’t come close. There are minor nits to pick, the exposed hollow portion of the wasp butt between the legs is a little unsightly, but when you consider what a complex and difficult character design this is to reproduce at a Deluxe Class level, I’m willing to overlook whatever minor blemishes there may be. I love the way the wasp head splits to form the chest and even the bug leg kibble feels like it belongs there rather then getting in the way. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how I would sit down and design a transforming figure like this one, and that makes it all the more impressive to me. So, how could I possibly improve on this figure? Give him a sound chip that says, “Wazzzpinator has planzzzzz.”

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The head sculpt is poetry in plastic. It has a remarkable amount of depth to it, particularly around the mandibles. I love the white plastic light piping in the eyes. I don’t recall seeing white plastic light piping on any previous Transformers, but it sure looks great here. Alas, there is a little chipping to the yellow paint on my Waspy’s noggin, but I don’t think it’s going to bother me enough to make me try for a better one.

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If I have one significant gripe, it comes in the articulation, but not in the individual points. No, my only real issue is with how loose the joints are on this guy, particularly in the hips. If I put him in too wide of a stance, he’s likely to buckle and do the splits. It’s nothing that a little nail polish won’t fix, but still worth pointing out. As to the rest of the articulation, Waspinator features ball joints a plenty which not only gives him great articulation, but also makes for a nice nod back to the Beast Wars figures where ball joints started appearing as the order of the day.

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Waspinator comes with one accessory and that’s his little handgun that transforms from his wasp stinger. The barrel is made of the same milky translucent plastic that they used for the light piping in his eyes. It looks cool enough and he can hold it well in either hand. You can also store it by pegging it into his wasp butt.

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With how good Waspinator’s robot mode is I was expecting the beast mode to be a terrible afterthought. I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it’s apparent that the designers went for the robot mode first and the wasp second, but it’s still a remarkably solid alt mode. Not only can he stand perfectly on his insect legs, supporting the full weight of his body, but the engineering includes a plethora of tabs and slots and pegs to secure this mode together quite nicely. Everything has an obvious and intentional place to go and it’s all intuitive enough that I didn’t even have to look at the instructions once. And you’ve just got to love the way his gun becomes his stinger.

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Yes, he’s rather blocky under the wasp head, yes you can see through parts of him from the side, and yes, you can see his robot arms and hands pretty clearly, but I’m willing to forgive all of that for the sake of having such a great robot mode.

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I didn’t talk a lot about the deco in robot mode, but it remains pretty much the same in both modes, so let’s discuss it here. You get the same two tones of green, the beautiful and bright yellow striped butt, and touches of brown for the legs, antenna, and other bits. I also really dig the paint they used for his huge compound eyes. Oh yeah, you get a perfect little Predacon insignia stamped on his back. The translucent wings include sculpted veins and look pretty good and by working the button on his back you can make them flap. I didn’t really need that gimmick in the toy, but then it really doesn’t hurt anything either. The wings are still connected with ball joints so you can angle them in a variety of ways.

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Waspinator was easily one of my favorite characters in the Beast Wars series because he always made me laugh, and that shouldn’t be discounted. Comic relief characters are hard to do properly, particularly in a series aimed at kids. Just ask Jar Jar Binks! But Waspinator worked. He was endearing and he was the one Predacon I always felt bad for even though he was a bad guy. He was just trying to get by and could never get a break. It’s no surprise I had high hopes for this figure to turn out well and I’m so pleased that Hasbro did such a great job on him. Primus knows that Hasbro has put out some amazing figures this year in the Generations line, but Waspinator is definitely vying for the top spot as one of my favorite Deluxes this year. How about that? Never in a million years did I think I’d be raving about a Generations figure of Waspinator.

Transformers Generations: Rhinox by Hasbro

Hey, it’s the first Transformers Thursday of 2014! As promised last time, I’m going to start mixing it up on TFT with both modern and older stuff and today we’re continuing with the modern. Rhinox was one of the last Transformers to ship in 2013 and he was a nice surprise because he’s a Beast Wars Voyager! Holy crap! As a fan and collector I’ve always had an undying love for the Beast Wars TV series, but that love never carried over to the toys. Oh, I had quite the collection of Beast Wars figures, but they never really captured the magic of what came before and what has come since. I ended up unloading that collection (except for Megatron) during one of the Great Toy Purges and I can’t say as I regret it. Needless to say, I was excited to get a modern Rhinox in hopes that he could help me find some affection for a Beast Wars figure.

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The package consists of a familiar window-style box similar to what we got for the other Generations Voyagers. This one still keeps some of the G1 inspired grid pattern, but also embraces the white granite look of the Generations comic packs. The box retains the “Thrilling 30” moniker, but it’s labeled as a 2014 figure and brandishes the Maximal insignia in several places. The wrap-around character artwork is absolutely killer and Rhinox himself is packaged beside it in his robot mode. I really can’t wait to get this guy out and transform him, so let’s start out with his beast mode.

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Yup, Rhinox is a rhino, and a mighty fine looking one at that. Sure, there’s seaming situated all around him, but the plates all lock together quite well, minimizing any unsightly gaps that advertise him as a shell-former. The sculpt here is quite good and consists of leathery looking skin and a very convincing rhino head. There is some obvious, green robot kibble visible on the backs of his legs, but apart from that you’d need to pick this guy up and look underneath to see that anything really funky was going on. The rhino covering is mostly made up of hard plastic, although softer stuff is used for his hinder, ears, and horn. There isn’t a lot of paintwork on this aspect of Rhinox, but he doesn’t really need it. Overall, it’s a pretty good rhino disguise.

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If you’re looking for a super-articulated rhino, however, you will be disappointed. Rhinox’s beast mode sports very limited articulation. His legs can move forward and backward a bit, but it isn’t really a natural movement and the more you move them the more you risk knocking the plates out of whack. He can, however, open his mouth and bite things. Honestly, I’m not terribly upset about the limited articulation in beast mode because this guy is going to spend very little time as a rhino.  I’m mostly happy that he locks together so well and stands well and he does indeed capture Rhinox’s hilariously grumpy animal visage.

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Of course, I didn’t buy this ticket for the Rhino Show. The rhino is just the warm-up band. No, I got this guy for loveable Rhinox in robot mode and let me tell you this is a glorious treatment of the character. The transformation felt a tad intimidating at first, but after going through it only once, it seemed really easy when I was done. In fact, it’s all rather obvious. Everything unfolds from Rhino mode in a logical manner, but even going back into Rhino mode is rather intuitive. Shell-formers have a habit of being frustrating, but Rhinox avoids falling into that trap. And it’s hard to argue with the resulting figure.

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Rhinox is a fantastic representation of his animated counterpart. The proportions are great and the sculpt is gloriously complex, particularly in the chest and shoulder area where the mechanical hinges and gears mesh beautifully with the smooth rhino parts to create that amazing bio-mechanical aesthetic. I love the way the rhino mouth unfolds to form not only his chest plaste, but the plate over his pelvis as well. The subtle shift that positions the two plates that flank the chest piece is really cool too. The shoulders give the figure a properly hulking appearance and also allow for a wide range of movement in the arms. And the head? Hasbro really nailed Rhinox’s head sculpt. There’s a bit of mold flashing over my figure’s left eye, but I can probably clean that up with a razor.

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The rhino head and rhino butt lock together on Rhinox’s back very similar to the way the nosecone and tail lock together on TFC’s Uranos jets. Maybe a coincidence, or maybe someone at Hasbro is paying attention? Either way it’s cool and effective. The only gripe I have about Rhinox is he his a tad back heavy and the hip joints are rather loose. It is possible to get him standing fully erect, but it helps to lean him forward a bit. Have I mentioned the paintwork? The gold and green look amazing and contrast beautifully with the drab grey rhino parts.

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Naturally, Rhinox comes with his spinning hand cannons. The pieces clip together and serve to fill out his belly cavity when he’s in rhino mode and in robot mode he can wield them in each hand. There’s even a button on each one to make them spin. The sculpting on these guns is great, but the fronts are cast in the same grey rhino skin plastic, which is rather a bummer. Some silver would have made them look amazing. I’m guessing Hasbro ran out of budget for additional paint operations, which is understandable considering how amazing a figure this is.

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After some dubious modern efforts at Classics-style Dinobot and Cheetor, I’m happy to say that Hasbro’s third time was the charm. This figure does for Rhinox exactly what many of the best Classics/Generations figures have done for G1 characters. The rhino mode may not be the most exciting thing around, but it looks good and it gets the job done. Rhinox’s bot mode on the other hand is as sexy as a giant robot-rhino can possibly be. The sculpt, the proportions, the coloring (mostly)… everything about this figure just gels beautifully for me. He was a wonderful surprise for the Generations line and a great first addition to my Transformer collection for 2014. The fact that I got him at half price with free shipping on Hasbrotoyshop was just the icing on the energon cake. Now I really need to find me a Waspinator.